Hamburg-Copenhagen to become globally competitive megacity
21-09-2016
Joint opinion piece by Steen Bach Nielsen, member of the Regional Council, Region Zealand and Chair of STRING & Wolfgang Schmidt, State Councilor, Hamburg City.

The massive infrastructure project with regard to the Fehmarnbelt has kick-started a brand new development in Northern Europe.

With new roads and railways between Copenhagen and Hamburg, mobility all along the corridor will significantly improve. The travel time between the two cities will halve to just 2½ hours. Towns and communities will have modernised railways and motorways, while mobility of people, goods and services will also benefit. New markets and new opportunities across a markedly greater geography will rapidly become a reality. New relationships between companies and people will also evolve.

We've seen it elsewhere in the world: Seattle in the US and Vancouver in Canada are being linked in a megacity corridor by a new high-speed railway, which is scheduled to be complete in 2023. There are other examples in the United States and Japan. Their shared characteristic is a concentration of economic and political power, as well as vital administrative functions.

We will see the same in the early stages between Copenhagen/Malmö/Lund - already linked by the Øresund Bridge - and Hamburg. The fusion between Greater Copenhagen and Hamburg Metropolitan Region will create a major city of more than 10 million people. But it does not stop there: in Sweden, high-speed rail tracks are currently under discussion.  These will reduce the travel times between Stockholm and Malmö and Oslo and Malmö considerably. And, when the upgrade is complete, the "Megacity of Scandinavia" of around 20 million inhabitants could become a reality with Hamburg, Stockholm, Oslo, Malmö and Copenhagen, the focal points.

It is specifically from this perspective that we have to work to develop the STRING Corridor between Skåne and Hamburg. We must work toward a fusion of economic power, skills, values and welfare in one great, cohesive city. One that will be a competitive player in international economic and political development both in Europe and across the world. A megacity with the two major metropolises, Hamburg and Copenhagen, at its core, but with the dynamic development of the area between and around these centres: an ever-growing entity stretching over more than 300 km.

We need to move away from thinking about national solutions. We have to create those that span borders. Solutions to give people and business the greatest possible flexibility in the planning of their everyday lives. Solutions that make it seamless to work or live in different countries. To create an infrastructure that is customer and solution friendly while, at the same time, substantially reducing CO2 emissions in the transport sector through the switch from road to rail.

We can achieve a radical boost to the overall global competitiveness if we solve the challenges of the future together, with no thought to national restrictions and with efficient, functional solutions:

Northern Europe is among the world's leaders when it comes to the green transition, welfare and health. This is in terms of research and innovation, as well as being an integral part of our political decision-making systems and public attitudes.

In STRING we will help to foster partnerships, disseminate and share knowledge and help create the best environment for our industries to create and test future solutions in the corridor.

The establishment of the European Spallation Source, ESS in Lund and that of DESY and XFEL in Hamburg will transform us into the world's leading destination for materials research within ten years. We need to take advantage of this and bring both skills and businesses to the corridor. This also applies to the entire life sciences sector, ITC, marine research and development as well as within the creative industries where we have leading positions that can be extended further. Through partnerships, both between private companies and between private and public sector, we can strengthen our position further.

STRING partners will encourage many more collaborations in the corridor over the coming years. We will, through meetings, conferences and Fehmarnbelt Days seek to spark those inner dynamics that are generated when people meet to explore the possibilities of a new and more closely linked corridor.

The Megacity story will not be one of steel, concrete and a political elite - but of people coming together and the emergence of new ideas, new opportunities and greater benefits, both financially and in terms of a better quality of life. We must meet this with both curiosity and vigour in equal measure.